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Algeria: Five years after Hirak protest movement repressive clampdown continues unabated

Algerian authorities continue to clamp down on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly five years after the Hirak protest movement first began, said Amnesty International, by targeting critical voices of dissent, whether they be protesters, journalists or people expressing their views on social media.

After the Hirak protest movement was halted due to Covid-19 in 2020, theAlgerian authorities escalated their repression of peaceful dissent. Hundreds of people have been arbitrarily arrested and detained. Dozens of peaceful protesters, journalists, activists, and human rights defenders continue to languish behind bars for criticizing the authorities.

"It is a tragedy that five years after braveAlgerians took to the streets in their masses to demand political change and reforms, the authorities have continued to wage a chilling campaign of repression," said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International's Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"Algeria's authorities must immediately and unconditionally release all those detained solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association. They must ensure that human rights defenders, journalists, activists, trade unionists and others are able to exercise their rights and freely express critical views without fear of reprisals.

"Algeria's authorities must make the five-year anniversary of the Hirak protest movement a turning point by putting an end to this climate of repression and ordering the immediate release of those arbitrarily detained and allowing peaceful protests. The authorities must also stop the harassment of opponents and perceived critics and reform key legislation including repealing vague and overly broad provisions that have been used to repress human rights."

Background

The Hirak protest movement began in February 2019 when largely peaceful mass demonstrations took place acrossAlgeriaopposing then President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. In recent years, the protesters' demands evolved as they demanded political reforms and further freedoms.

Since May 2021, authorities have blocked protests, now requiring prior notification for each demonstration. They have also intensified their stifling of civic space and crackdown on dissent, arresting dozens of people including journalists, human rights defenders, whistleblowers, and people expressing themselves online or attending peaceful protests.

In September 2023, Amnesty International launched a campaign to demand the release of dozens of detainees. Among them are Slimane Bouhafs, an Amazigh activist who was detained in September 2021 and last year had his conviction upheld on appeal receiving a three-year prison term and fine for "undermining the integrity of national territory".

They also include Mohamed Tadjadit, known as "the poet of the Hirak" who was detained in relation to four separate cases between 2019 and 2022, all for his participation in peaceful protests or for exercising his right to freedom of expression. He has been arrested again in January 2024.

In October 2023,Algeria's Supreme Court rejected two appeals by the lawyers of Ihsane El Kadi, an independent journalist, upholding his seven-year sentence, on charges related to his journalism.

On more than one occasion, the president ofAlgeriahas issued pardons and clemency measures for thousands of prisoners and detainees, including some 160 detainees and prisoners linked to the Hirak movement in February 2021 and April 2022, according to media reports.According to the CNLD, the Algerian authorities have released another 107 detainees linked to the Hirak since January2023.


Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Amnesty International.
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